In the days before leaving for my semester abroad, my nervousness began to kick in about what I had gotten myself into. I thought: “Why would I leave my best friends, a town that I love, and familiarity all to go to a country I had never been to with people I have never met?” Though the suspense was nothing short of stressful and uncomfortable, I have never been happier with the decision to study abroad in a random city in Spain.
Alicante, Spain is a port city on the Costa Blanca of southern Spain and is now one of the places I call home. I arrived in the city without any friends or family, nervous whether I had made the right choice. Since that day, I have gained friendships and experiences that I am eternally grateful for.
When preparing to write this, I tried my hardest to avoid using phrases like “experiences to last a lifetime” and talking about “how much I’ve grown” or “the friends I never would have crossed paths with.” But, honestly, it has been almost impossible to accurately describe my time abroad without being tempted to say these kinds of things. Living in a completely different country does foster growth and living in a city with no one you know does allow you to cross paths with unique and amazing people. I always laughed hearing things like this, but I can now understand why these clichés exist.
These last four months, I gained a passion for sustainability, five lifelong friends, and ten new stamps on my passport. I made amazing friends who promised me I “always have a home in Alicante,” improved my Spanish in a way I that seems nearly impossible in the U.S., and realized the independence I am capable of. Not only has my last semester made me appreciate places I have never been, but it has also made me want to take advantage of my life back home. Realizing how many opportunities there are when visiting new countries has made me realize the ones I am missing in the cities I have lived in for years. I appreciate my hometown in Florida and my college town of Columbia, South Carolina, in ways I never could have if I didn’t leave. I prefer experiences over material things more than ever. New photos in my camera roll or a vile of sand from a beautiful beach are now my favorite souvenirs.
Before leaving, all that was running through my head was “what if I don’t get along with any of these people, what if this city isn’t what I expected, what if I regret leaving home?” After reading this, I hope you know how those questions were answered.
Caroline Skinner is the Spring 2019 CEA MOJO Blogger in Alicante, Spain, and is currently studying at University of South Carolina Columbia.